Alternatives For Employers Considering Workforce Reduction

By Andrew J. Sommer and Megan S. Shaked

This article addresses alternatives to reductions in force, or RIFs.[1] An RIF is an involuntary termination of employment, usually due to budgetary constraints, changes in business priorities or organizational reorganization, where positions are eliminated with no intention of replacing them.

Because RIFs can be costly to implement, increase the potential for employment lawsuits and lower morale of the remaining employees, employers may consider alternatives such as furloughs, voluntary separation programs, or VSPs, and early retirement incentive plans, or ERIPs.

Such alternatives can help reduce employers’ labor costs or workforce while avoiding or minimizing adverse consequences associated with a RIF.

This article discusses each of these alternatives to RIFs in detail to help you and your employer client decide which alternative is best under the circumstances:

Furloughs

One alternative to a RIF is a furlough.

Furloughs are temporary layoffs or some other modification of normal working hours without pay for a specified duration. The structure of furloughs can vary. For instance, in some furloughs employees have consecutive days of nonduty — for example, taking the first two weeks of each month off — or take off a designated day each week.

In another example, the employee may take a certain number of days off each month, but which days those are may vary from month to month. Some employers may allow employees to choose which days to take off on their furlough. A furlough may also be a temporary layoff, where the employee remains employed with a predeterminated return date, which may be extended depending on the circumstances.

Furloughs can eliminate the need for a RIF in some cases by reducing the employer’s payroll costs. However, even on unpaid days, furloughed employees do cost the employer something, because employees on a furlough usually receive employment benefits. In a unionized workforce, employers must negotiate the furlough terms and schedule with the union.

Key Pros and Cons of Furloughs Versus RIFs

There are several pros and cons to consider when determining whether a furlough is a good alternative to a RIF. The advantages of furloughs over RIFs include:

Employers avoid employment terminations and the attendant potential legal liability.

Employees don’t lose their jobs.

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California Supreme Court Adds Fuels to Meal and Rest Break Litigation by Adopting Cumulative Penalties

By Andrew J. Sommer and Samuel S. Rose

For the last couple of years, we have been keeping an eye on Naranjo v. Spectrum Security Services, Inc. as it’s made its way through the California state courts. Now, the California Supreme Court has issued its unanimous decision with wide-ranging ramifications over meal and rest break violations. As a result of the Court concluding that premium pay for meal and rest break violations is “wages,” it has paved the way to award as well waiting time and wage statement penalties based on meal/rest period violations. The practical impact of this decision is to encourage class action and PAGA (Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act) litigation within the state, providing plaintiffs’ attorneys further remedies in meal and rest period litigation and inflating the settlement value of these cases.

Meal and Rest Break Premiums Are Considered “Wages”

The first issue that the Court considered in Naranjo was whether premium pay available pursuant to Labor Code section 226.7 for meal/rest period violations is considered “wages.” Section 226.7 provides that an “employer shall pay the employee one additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of compensation for each work day that [a] meal or rest period is not provided.”

The Supreme Court found that “[a]lthough the extra pay is designed to compensate for the unlawful deprivation of a guaranteed break, it also compensates for the work the employee performed during the break period.” Therefore, the Court concluded, “[t]he extra pay…constitutes wages subject to the same timing and reporting rules as other forms of compensation for work.”

In reversing the Court of Appeal, which held that meal/rest period premium pay did not constitute wages, the Supreme Court noted that the reasoning rested on a “false dichotomy,” namely that the payment must be either a legal remedy or wages. The Court held, for purposes of Section 226.7, premium pay is both a legal remedy and wages, which leads us to the next holding in the case.

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Challenges to California’s Corporate Board Diversity Laws Continue

A number of lawsuits challenging California’s corporate board diversity laws are still working their way through litigation, even years after the legislation went into effect.

Senate Bill 826

In 2018, California enacted Senate Bill 826, requiring California-based publicly held companies to have a minimum number of women on their boards of directors.  Such boards needed to have at least one female director by the end of 2019.  By the end of 2021, boards needed to have two female directors if the corporation has five directors and three female directors if the corporation has six or more directors.  A corporation out of compliance faces a $100,000 fine for the first violation and a $300,000 fine for a violation in any subsequent year. 

Assembly Bill 979

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Paid COVID-19 Supplemental Sick Leave Returns to California, Again

California Governor Newsom has signed legislation extending a new allotment of up to 80 hours of COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave to California workers through new Labor Code Sections 248.6 and 248.7.  The leave is retroactive to January 1, 2022, and continues through September 30, 2022.  Small businesses that employ 25 or fewer workers are not covered by the legislation.   

Use of Sick Leave for Reasons Related to COVID-19

The legislation provides for up to 40 hours of COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave for employees who are unable to work or telework for certain reasons related to COVID-19, including:

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[Webinar] 2022 California Employment Law Update 

On Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022 at 1 p.m. ET / 10 a.m. PT, join Andrew J. Sommer and Megan S. Shaked for a webinar regarding 2022 California Employment Law Updates: New Legal Requirements and Practical Compliance Strategies Every HR Professional and Manager Should Know.

2022 brings changes for California employers to a range of topics touching on traditional employment law matters as well as health and safety concerns, including related to COVID-19. This webinar will review compliance obligations for companies doing business in California, as well as discuss the practical impact of these new laws and best practices for avoiding potential employment-related claims.

Participants in this webinar will learn about: Continue reading

Conn Maciel Carey’s 2022 Labor and Employment Webinar Series

2022 LE Webinar Series

Announcing Conn Maciel Carey’s 2022 Labor and Employment Webinar Series

The legal landscape facing employers seems as difficult to navigate as it has ever been.  Keeping track of the ever-changing patchwork of federal, state and local laws governing the workplace may often seem like a full-time job whether you are a human resources professional, in-house attorney or  business owner.  Change appears to be the one constant.  As we enter Year 2 of President Biden’s Administration, employers will continue to closely track the changes taking place at the NLRB, the DOL and the EEOC.  At the same time, a number of states will continue introducing new laws and regulations governing workplaces across the country, making it more important than ever for employers to pay attention to the bills pending in the legislatures of the states where they operate.

​Conn Maciel Carey’s complimentary 2022 Labor and Employment Webinar Series, which includes monthly programs (sometimes more often, if events warrant) put on by attorneys in the firm’s national Labor and Employment Practice, will focus on a host of the most challenging and timely issues facing employers, examining past trends and looking ahead at the issues most likely to arise.

To register for an individual webinar in the series, click on the link in the program description below. To register for the entire 2022 series, click here to send us an email request, and we will register you.  If you missed any of our programs from the past seven years of our annual Labor and Employment Webinar Series, here is a link to an archive of recordings of those webinars. 

2022 Labor and Employment Webinar Series – Program Schedule

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California Adds Increased Meal/Rest Period and Workplace Safety Protections for Warehouse Employees Subject to Production Quotas

On September 22, 2021, California became even more labor friendly when Governor Newsom signed AB 701 which adds additional requirements to California’s existing meal and rest breaks rules for non-exempt warehouse employees. Effective January 1, 2022, employers covered by AB 701 must disclose all quotas to warehouse employees that the employee may be subject to.  Employers are subject to a rebuttable presumption of retaliation against employees who are subject to an adverse employment action within 90 days of engaging in protected activity under AB 701.  Employers must make the disclosure to each employee upon hire or within 30 days of the law going into effect.

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Battle Over Employment Arbitration Agreements In California Continues

By Megan Shaked

The seemingly never ending battle over employment arbitration agreements in California continues with last week’s Ninth Circuit court decision vacating a preliminary injunction over 2019’s California Assembly Bill 51 (previously discussed here and here).

Back in 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 51, which added section 432.6 to the California Labor Code and sought to ban new mandatory arbitration agreements to the extent they cover any discrimination claims under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), or any claims under the California Labor Code.  Under this legislation, an applicant or employee could not, as a condition of employment, continued employment or the receipt of any employment-related benefit, be required to waive any right, forum, or procedure under the FEHA or any other specific statute governing employment.  Employers would also be prohibited from threatening, terminating or otherwise retaliating or discriminating against an applicant or employee because of the refusal to consent to a waiver.  Violations of these provisions would constitute unlawful employment practices under the FEHA and would be a misdemeanor.

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California Supreme Court Boosts Premium Pay For Meal, Rest and Recovery Break Violations

On the heels of Donohue v. AMN Services, LLC recognizing a rebuttal presumption of meal period violations based on the employer’s time records alone – as discussed in our prior blog post – the California Supreme Court has, in another blow to employers, ruled that the premium pay required where the employer does not provide meal, rest or recovery periods is not based on the hourly rate of pay (as had previously been understood).  In essence, the California Supreme Court has found that the “rate of compensation” for the purpose of determining the additional hour of pay due to employees who are not provided meal, rest or recovery periods is synonymous with the overtime rate of pay and must include all nondiscretionary payments, not just hourly rates.

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Will California’s COVID-19 Rehiring and Retention Requirements Outlive the Pandemic?

As we dream of a “post-COVID” world, some obligations stemming from the pandemic will certainly be with us for some time.  One such obligation for some employers to note is California’s rehiring and retention requirements.

California Senate Bill 93, which added Labor Code section 2810.8, brings statewide requirements for covered employers to offer available job positions to employees laid-off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Covered businesses include hotels, private clubs, event centers, airport hospitality operations, airport service providers, and those providing janitorial, building maintenance or security services to office, retail or other commercial buildings.  This section also applies even when an employer experiences certain ownership or organizational changes, for example, a change in ownership where the business is conducting the same or similar operations as before the COVID-19 state of emergency.

The law requires that, within 5 business days of establishing a position, a covered employer offer its employees laid off due to COVID-19 pandemic, in writing, “all job positions that become available [after its effective date] for which the laid off employees are qualified.”  Such qualification is determined based on the laid off employee holding the same or similar position at the time of the recent layoff.  If more than one employee is entitled to preference for a position, the employer must offer the position to the laid off employee with the greatest length of service on the employee’s date of hire.  The employee is afforded 5 business days to respond to the offer. 

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